Awesome People: Sean “Day[9]” Plott

I’ve been fortunate in my life, to have amazing family members, teachers, and friends. They’ve inspired me, taught me, and helped me be a better person.

One of those people is my best friend, Sean Plott. If you’re at all into e-sports, especially StarCraft II, you’ve likely heard of him. Going by the handle Day[9],  Sean’s done a daily web show called the Day[9] Daily. He’s nearly hit 500 episodes, which is insane given how much time he spends travelling to cast StarCraft II tournaments (commentating on matches like a baseball announcer) or to take part in panels at conventions like PAX and SXSW. Along the way, he’s picked up a few other accomplishments, like being named to the Forbes 30 under 30.

I met Sean at Harvey Mudd. I was a junior then, and living in what we called the Halo Suite. Me and three other guys had grabbed a suite of two rooms connected by a bathroom, moved all the beds and desks into one room, and turned the other into a gaming lounge with TV’s, XBOX’s, and couches. A bunch of guys were practicing for their first pro Halo tournament. I didn’t play Halo at the time, but I’d been a competitive RTS player for years, and I knew the transition from playing with friends to playing with strangers for money was going to be a shock. It’d be like a recreational tennis player walking up to a division one level tournament, and discovering for the first time what 110-mph kick serves look like. People got that, when it came to sports. I’d never met anyone who got that when it came to video games, not then.

That day, Sean came over to check out the suite. Someone introduced us. “Hey Tristan, meet Sean, he’s a frosh. He’s really good at StarCraft.”

“Oh, cool,” I said. “I’m pretty good too.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking something like, yeah right, good like the guys in the other room think they’re good at Halo.

A minute into our conversation, I knew I was wrong about that. He wasn’t good, he was really good. Maybe one of the best in the country. At that point I was thinking something along the lines of: Holy Shit, I need to hang out with this guy.

The Halo guys went to their tournament and had a pretty good learning experience. Sean went to a tournament that year too – got 2nd at the World Cyber Game nationals, which qualified him for the grand finals. There, competing against the best players in the world, he made top 16.

I remember the first time I watched Sean play StarCraft. Now, intellectually knowing someone is better than you is one thing, but seeing it is another. I might have acted humble about my StarCraft skills, but inside, I thought I was pretty awesome. I’d been playing for a long time. I’d topped some ladders, done well in some online tournaments, beaten a lot of pretty good players. Sure, maybe I wasn’t about to go pro, but I could hold my own. I’ve worked hard on my game.

Back then, when people watched me play StarCraft, they’d be blown away by my hand speed. I played at around 140 actions per minute (APM), give or take, at that time. That means I average 140 mouse clicks or key presses per minute.

Sean played at well over 300 APM. He wasn’t just faster than me, he was accurate. Every click was precise. My 140 APM was at like 80% accuracy; his 300 was at 99%. He could maintain that every game, for hours at a time. If you don’t know StarCraft well, it was nearly impossible to even tell what he was doing. I’d say my emotional path, while watching him play, went something like this.  First there was jaw-dropping awe. Then: crushing depression. I was nothing. I shouldn’t even be in the same room as him. I wasn’t worthy.

After, I went back to my room. I fired up a game, and I thought – fine, maybe I can’t be as good as him. But I can keep improving. Let’s see if I can play even faster. Let’s see if I can up my accuracy.

Sean and I hung out occasionally at Harvey Mudd, but not a ton. College was busy. I graduated, and went on to the Ph.D. in mathematics program at the University of Oregon (which I talked about in my last post). There, I started to play a lot of online poker. Sean had picked up poker too, and was doing really well. As anyone who’s played poker knows, nothing beats calling a friend and talking about hands, whining about how unlucky you got, or celebrating each other’s victories. We started calling each other on Skype to do just that. Then, we got the idea of going to Las Vegas together during Spring Break, with a third friend of mine. At one point in the trip, I ended up getting very emotional (over something that most people wouldn’t consider a big deal at all). Sean spent hours walking the dingy hallways of the Imperial Palace with me, talking and listening. After that, I didn’t just feel better – I had a new close friend.

Every post I’ve made on this blog began as a seed in a conversation I’ve had with Sean. I remember, I asked him how he’d gotten so good at StarCraft. He said he found his weaknesses, one by one, and crushed them. I’ve thought about that ever since. It’s shaped how I learn, how I improve, how I think. Such a simple idea. Find your weakness. Eliminate them.  But man is it hard to implement. It requires brutal honesty about what those weaknesses are and hard work to eliminate them.

That’s how I’ve tried to proceed with my writing. Been at it for nearly three years now. Lots of bumps along the way, lots more on the road ahead. But by talking through them with Sean, figuring stuff out together, forging ahead toward my goals and his, I’m getting better. I’ve learned to be happy with where I’ve gotten but not satisfied with where I’m at, to push through and be better and better and better. Watching him succeed so much at his own endeavors has been the best inspiration for my own.

But Sean’s got a talent for that. He’s got this energy, this aura, this something, and what’s brilliant is it’s not just reserved for those who know him personally. He can show that to total strangers, to people who only see him on the screen. You can see it in his fans, when they line up to get their picture taken, to get his autograph, to talk to him for a moment. He inspires them, too.

Nothing exemplifies that more than what he did a couple years ago, for his 100th episode. He describes it himself as “Hear about my life of Starcraft, its downs and ups and everything in between.”

You should watch it. If you don’t know anything about games, or if you do. It’s one of the most touching, inspirational things I’ve ever seen, right up there with the James Owen stuff I talked about in my last post. It’s about how games are more than games, how the communities and relationships we build over them are as lasting and rich as anything else. It’s got 3 million views. You don’t need to know anything about games to appreciate the message. There’s a pretty good chance it’ll make you cry, but they’ll be good tears. Watch it here.

I want to reach people like Sean does. To make them feel something with my stories. I want to teach them, and to learn from them.  It’s what he does every day. My friendship with him has taught me I’m capable of doing that too.

Thanks, Sean.

(If you’d like to check out more of Sean’s content beside the amazing 100th daily, his archives are available at www.day9tv.com. He’s also casting the NASL season three finals this weekend, which you can check out over at http://nasl.tv/)

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48 thoughts on “Awesome People: Sean “Day[9]” Plott

  1. Krisna says:

    Hello Tristan. I’m a very big follower of Sean and the E-Sports scene and this was a great read from one of his closet Friends. You are absolutely right in how he affects people. Because of Sean, I was able to solve a three year altercation I had with a friend, as well as use the learning techniques you described for competitive swimming I used to do. Its great Sean has an Awesome friend to support him in his endeavours. Also Puzzlejuice is a fantastic game

    • Really nice to hear about you and your friend, Krisna. One of the hardest things about posting this stuff publically is questioning whether the ideas are too entwined with my own personality to be useful, so it’s nice to hear that you do something similar with yoru swimming.

  2. Dan Brownlow says:

    This was a wonderful read, thank you for sharing and good luck for your future 🙂

  3. Evey says:

    Awesome.

  4. Terry says:

    I feel you’ve written the perfect eulogy for Sean. Not trying to be morbid, but the nicest things ate usually said after a person has left us. That 100th episode solidified me as a lifetime fan of Sean.

  5. Artem Beer says:

    Awesome read 🙂 Well written and nice to find out more about Sean and this “Tristan” he refers to from day to day

  6. Sean Miller says:

    Tristan, I’ve heard a lot about you by simply watching Day9. This post was very inspiring, and the way you capture what seems to be the essence of who Sean really is…. it’s perfect. Continue with your writing, continue to eliminate your weaknesses, but as for this itself, my personal feeling is that it’s perfect.

  7. NorGath says:

    Keep that friend close… people would kill to have your spot. Just saying. 😀

    I’m feeling like I haven’t waste my time reading this, thank you. Also, I loved seeing you with Sean on casts. GL&HF.

  8. Howdy.

    I just wrote a very long -and pleasant- comment to this blog post while on my iPod, and when I went to hit send it told me I had no internet (because it was too lazy to stay on as I typed and typed). I am near the point of sending it orbitig around Jupiter’s smallest (and most underrated) moon. But I’ve digressed.

    I just wanted to say that I completely understood and enjoyed this blog post. I can testify that Sean is most definitely a motivating figure in my life as of now, and I don’t even really play or follow Starcraft that much. I follow the Sean version of starcraft. I keep the tabs on the daily and everything else Sean does (though not quite to a stalker level. I cannot afford the all black sneaky clothes or monoculars) simply because he is himself such an interesting and inspirational person.

    I also want to say that I can most definitely sympathise over the whole writing thing. I have been working, as well, for the past 3 to 4 years on that whole, as the french would call it: thang. It’s certainly a hard row to hoe, but it’s great to work at something you will never quite be satisfied with. It, unlike (let’s say) your zygomatic arches, can grow until you’re dead. Which is a comforting thing to think about if you can somehow continue to write for 80 years. Comforting to think you won’t ever be able to say comfortably (in a comforting tone): Well, I mastered it.

    Though I’ve digressed, you are very lucky to have people like Sean in your life. Not just because he is Sean, but because he is so supportive towards the “good fight” you are fighting. It’s not easy to find people in this world that you can honestly and frankly discuss your process and your work with, and it’s not easy even to find people you (by you I mean me) are able to really talk to in that matter -to use a word I used a lot earlier- comfortably. I envy you with both my zygomatic arches.

    Good luck with all Tristan. You’ve got the kind of people around you that would surely help you get better and better and keep you humble, yet pleased. And to quote Stephen Fry: “And this too, surey is enough. I shall stop now before I get all -Oh, it’s too late. I’ve already got all. Until the next time, fellow linguists, goodbye.”

    And to quote Robby Bobby Browning:
    Your hand, sir, and good-bye: no lights, no lights!
    The street’s hushed, and I know my own way back,
    Don’t fear me! There’s the grey beginning. Zooks!

    And zooks indeed.
    John E. Stintzi

  9. Nathan Allen says:

    Sean tweated the link to this blog last night; and I suspect that you are going to get a lot of day9 viewers reading this blog. Watching the daily it’s plain to see that you’ve helped Sean as much as he has helped you. Thank you both for being such a positive influence on the interwebs.

  10. Matt says:

    Hey, I came here because Day[9] told me to, but I stayed because of your writing. I’m not sure how to write the thanks I want to in this simple comment, so I guess just “Thank you” will have to suffice, keep up the work I’ll stop by now in then to read some more.

  11. Niels says:

    I was brought here through Day[9]s Twitter, but I’ll make sure to check out your blog from now on. I really like your writing, and the way in which you describe why you find Day[9] so inspirational. Keep up the good work! 🙂
    P.S I was just about to call Day[9] Sean, but I figured it would be weird, as I don’t know him personally, man do I envy your position 😉

  12. David says:

    I too was brought here by Day[9]. Me and my fellow members of the Day[9] army have hear a lot about you, Tristan and I look forward to reading your future posts!

    P.S I think DayJ should have you on the daily more.

  13. Jenn says:

    Agreed. Sean Plott sets a great example — not just for gamer — but for people who strive for a goal in general.

    For myself, I’ve learned to stop being afraid to question and venture out there; perhaps that’s one of the many reasons I’ve changed careers (and of course, enjoy my gaming here and there). I have been pretty satisfied with my overall progress and from the sounds of it, you have too.

    Each and every individual has their own niche; this is what makes us awesome. Although what we strive to succeed in may vary — that’s okay — as long as we learn to improve each day and realize it — that’s what quantifies success — not just some fabricated benchmark on a bell curve. I think that is what truly defines the strong from the weak. Follow the path we want; the path we desire and want the most, no matter what. Happiness is key. We live with the consequences — so they must be GOOD ones, right?

    Well written. 🙂 Best wishes!

    JKV

  14. Tomsu says:

    Heya! Loved this blog! I also heard Sean talking about you in his dailies. When I first heard of Day9 I wasn’t that big of a fan, propably because I was pretty arrogant at the time, and wasn’t very open to new stuff. First thing I ever saw from Sean was trumpets, and I just thought that “I well this guy is pretty funny, but he plays starcraft so his content doesn’t really apply to me” (I was 100% dedicated wow player back then). Then I quit wow and started watching Seans videos with all the time I had. After watching the videos and stuff I realized how awesome this guy was. I stopped being arrogant and started being more open to stuff. And best of all, I bought Starcraft 2. Now I use my free time just checking out random stuff about Sean and starcraft. Sorry for the long post and for my english. Just wanted to share my experience with Sean. Also, I hope you the best! And greets from Finöand! 🙂

  15. Joey Leafeator says:

    Tristan,

    I will admit that I am reading your blog for the first time after Sean posted a twitter link to it today. I am quite enjoying it. This one really made me think, as I too have (a much smaller) connection with Sean. He truly has the gift of being able to inspire someone through a medium like video. He inspired me and helped me learn, helped me grow as a human. As I got more involved with “behind the scenes” starcraft, I had the opportunity to work with him at many events. The man who I once idolized now knows my name, and it is a great feeling. I hope one day I get to rub shoulders with you too, so I can pick your brain some also.

    Thanks,
    Joey “Leafeator”

  16. Ruby says:

    As others have said before me, I came here from Sean’s twitter but stayed for your writing. What you describe is the other half of the friendship that Sean has spoken about before this post got written. When I met Sean, it was at Dreamhack, where I worked. He got a massage, and then he collapsed. He’d been casting for two days, and hardly slept, giving everything for his fans. I sat and spoke some with Logan at the time, and then we covered him with blankets and pillows and let him sleep. Seemed fair. And fun.
    I truly love Sean, the way you love someone you only know through his casting, meeting him twice, and getting to know him through how others describe him. Your post actually made me cry a bit, just because of the obvious love and respect and awe you have for someone I feel the same way about without actually knowing him. That means that what you feel must be my feelings times about one hundred. Or more. I both envy and rejoice for you. Especially as I know how much he cares for you in return.

    That was all for me. Keep up the good work, Tristan. Looking forward to reading more from you!

  17. Day[9] told me to go here, and when the Thoughthammer gives an order, I obey. I really like your writing in this post! The anecdotes are well chosen and you convey your feelings honestly, even when they’re not completely positive. I’ll make sure to come back here and follow your writing, good luck to you 🙂

  18. Andrew Dawson says:

    Tristan,

    This is a great post. Every time Sean talks about you and your friendship I get really insanely jealous. I wish I’d been lucky enough to meet someone in this way and form a close friendship, but I’ve not found quite the right someone nearby enough yet.

    I was lucky enough to meet Sean in person at Gamescom 2010 (and hang out with him for a good period of time) and I am going to Gamescom 2012 so hopefully I’ll get to say hi again 🙂 Are you going to come along and grace Cologne with your presence? I’d like to meet you if you are.

    All the best with your writing, clearly you have a talent for it, keep crushing those mistakes. Love that methodology.

    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew

      I won’t be at Gamescom, which is unfortunate as I love Germany (was there for a week in 2006). Hope you get a chance to meet Sean there again, I know he’s looking forward to the trip.

      Thanks for reading!

      -Tristan

  19. […] a busy couple of weeks. I’ve got something exciting coming, though, I promise – Friday, my friend Sean and I recorded a pretty cool video that will hopefully be the first of many on storytelling. It […]

  20. […] I’ve always had a great sounding board when it came to talking about stories – my friend Sean “Day[9]” Plott. From those first few scenes I tried (Remember Raven, Sean? And yes, I had a character named Raven […]

  21. […] the first writing I’d consider in the neighborhood of publishable. I did an awesome webshow with my friend Sean. I switched from QA to tech writing at work. Internally, I improved my self-confidence and tried to […]

  22. […] had the pleasure of spending a week in Paris with my best friend, Sean, and some other friends. It was more of a business trip for Sean – he was casting a StarCraft II […]

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